The Secret to Meat Pies en Mass

Ahh yes, meat pies. Those ubiquitous Medieval-Renaissance-Colonial foods that everyone tries to make at one point in their reenacting career. They seem so simple, until you actually have to make one. Somehow that seemingly simple combination of meat & pie crust is more complicated than it seems.

I know there are plenty of "real" ways to make meat pies. Heck, being a pie fanatic (especially when it comes to camp cooking), I've made more than a few.

However, I usually save the full fledged free standing pie with real chopped, boiled beef filling & elaborately decorated crust for really special occasions. The kind that involve wearing fancy clothes & sleeping in real beds, not roughing it in camp!

That doesn't mean that I don't always want a good meat pie on the menu though! It just means I bust out the modern cheats (at home) to get them.

The most obvious cheat is using ground meat. I'm a fan of mixing beef with turkey or pork to stretch budgets a little. It's also good to use higher fat beef than you would normally. That extra fat will help the filling hold together better without the addition of extra butter or lard.

My next biggest cheat is using prepared pie crust. I can make a good crust from memory while in camp, but when it comes to making handheld meat pies by the dozen, lets just say there are better ways to spend the time than cutting in all that butter.

But the best, and probably least obvious cheat; I use "Texas sized" silicone muffin cups. They do a fantastic job of holding up (actually, down) the pie crust, keeping the mini pies in the proper shape, without my having to do anything fancy. Sometimes I put a separate bottom crust on top of the filled cups, but other times it's easier to simply fold over the excess dough to create a bottom. Silicone molds are great too. Because they are flexible, there is no buttering needed yet everything comes out easily. That's a win-win in my book.

The above pies were made en masse for the Early Modern Muster of Arms both for 2017 & this year. What can I say, they were a hit & too easy not to duplicate!

The 2017 pies followed a Polish recipe for "Cypriot style beef" from one of my favorite books, Food & Drink in Medieval Poland. This is one of the only historic Polish cookbooks I have seen that is also in English! This years pies are Pyes de Pares from Gode Cookery, which has become one of my first stops when looking for recipes for the 15-16th centuries. I'm only half way through the batch but they are turning out just as delicious as my previous attempts.

The best thing about cheating at home though, is that if you do it right, once out at an event, no one is going to ever be the wiser.

Unless you admit to your cheats in writing of course...